Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for someone who enjoys gardening?
The new edition of my book, ‘Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting‘ would be an excellent choice. This book is not just about growing food – all your garden will benefit from organic cultivation. It has 500 pages packed with easy-to-follow guides and secrets on how to maintain good health in your whole garden so that all your plants become naturally pest and disease resistant, and more tolerant of climate change while saving water.
The monthly gardening diary of what to do when for all climate zones can be used with or without moon planting, and there are spaces in the diary for you to add personal notes and reminders. For more information about this book, see: Recommended reading.
Cara at WAHMania has a small quantity of stock and, for Australian orders placed before this Friday, books will be sent by Express Post to ensure that they arrive in time for Christmas. To order merely click on the ‘Buy the book’ panel on the right hand side of this page.
When sowing seed directly into garden beds, or when planting out seedlings, or planting shrubs and trees, always make sure that soil in the growing area is thoroughly dampened BEFORE sowing or planting. Then, after sowing or planting, you only need to add enough water to settle soil around the seeds or roots. Soil should be what is known as “dark-damp” before you add seeds or plants.
This practice is very important because, if soil in the growing area is relatively dry and you only apply water to the seed row or plants after you put them in the soil, some of the water you apply will be drawn away from the seeds or plants into the surrounding drier soil. The dispersion of water into drier soil is a common cause of germination failure, or seedlings, shrubs and trees drooping several days after planting.
When sowing seed, or planting out seedlings, thoroughly water the furrows or planting holes first. Check that you haven’t just wet the top centimetre of soil. For successful germination, soil must remain dark damp, and a very light application of fluffed-up organic mulch across the growing area or between rows can help prevent water loss through evaporation. Seeds sown in dark-damp soil don’t usually require soaking before sowing, with the exception of silver beet and beetroot as these have a thick, corky outer layer. If legume seeds are sown in dark-damp soil, they do not require soaking beforehand because over-wet legume seeds may rot before germination.
When planting shrubs, trees and vines where soil is not dark damp, fill the planting holes with water and plant only after the water has drained away. After planting, apply enough water to settle soil around the roots and apply a 5-7 cm of organic mulch to prevent water loss through evaporation.
Winter weather has taken a sudden turn for the worse in some areas of Australia. Young trees and shrubs can be more sensitive to cold and frost than more mature plants of the same species. Frost-tender young plants grown in the open without the protection of taller plants, or house eaves, are more likely to be damaged by cold. If frosts are common in your area, always position frost-tender plants where cold air can drain away.
If any of your small shrubs or trees that have been planted in the open are looking decidedly unhappy, you can provide them with temporary protection from cold using a bird wire hoop that is topped with a piece of plastic, shade cloth or hessian bags at night. The cover allows warm air to be trapped around the shrub or tree. The wire hoop should be high enough to prevent foliage coming in contact with the plastic, or cold can be transferred from the plastic to the foliage.
If you use clear, or a lightly coloured plastic, light and air can reach the plant, and the cover can be left over the plant until the weather warms a little. We have positioned the plastic so that our young avocado tree is also protected from cold southerly winds. A stone wrapped in each corner of the sheet prevents the twine slipping from the corners.
Where severe frosts are common, and cold air does not drain away easily, you will need to cover both top and sides of the hoop at night and remove the cover mid morning. We have found that placing the cover only around the sides can trap cold air and cause water to freeze.
For taller trees and shrubs that are being affected by colder than usual conditions, the poly hoops demonstrated in the post on Plant protection can be used to support a plastic or shade cloth cover. If your plants are damaged by frost, do not prune them until all danger of frost has passed, or more of the plant will be damaged by subsequent frosts. When pruning after frosts, prune during the First Quarter moon phase for more rapid regrowth.
Variations in the usual climate conditions in gardens can confuse some plants until they adapt to climate change. In our garden, some frangipanis have lost their leaves; others have not. Some Hawaiian hibiscus are still flowering, while others became dormant early in June. Frosts rarely occur on our property, and it came as a complete surprise that our young avocado tree is not happy about the cold because the roses around our house are in full bloom.
Predictions are that our seasons will become more extreme, as climate change continues. All we can do is to ensure that garden soil contains humus, don’t overwater plants in winter, and give them a dose of seaweed extract tea to help them become more frost (and drought) tolerant by strengthening cell walls.
Roses are available for planting now. If possible, avoid purchasing bare-rooted roses before the end of June, as roses that have been lifted before they are fully dormant do not usually grow well. If you live in an area where frosts occur, it is better to plant them at the end of winter. Planting of potted roses can be delayed until spring where frosts are severe. Also avoid planting roses during wet weather, when soil will become compacted.
Roses need a well-drained soil, and following the guidelines for planting trees and shrubs apply to roses. See “Planting trees, shrubs and vines”, under Ornamentals.
If new roses have not been pruned before purchase, leave any pruning required until the end of winter, at the first signs of new growth, or until frosts have passed. If new roses are pruned early and frost damages the plants, you will have very little to cut back to. Climbing roses are pruned after flowering in spring. If pruning at the end of winter, prune new roses during First Quarter phase when sap flow is higher and growth response will be faster. If frost is not a problem, new roses can be pruned during Full Moon phase during winter.
If you are replacing a sick rose, remove soil from the planting area beyond the reach of the sick rose’s roots, and replace it with soil that has not grown roses before.
Winter is the best time to plant deciduous trees, shrubs and vines, including roses and fruit trees. Evergreen plants do well if planted in spring in cool and temperate climates, or in early autumn where summers are very hot. Moon planters will plant these during Full Moon phase for best results. • Always make planting holes wider than deep. Feeder roots are situated under the outer foliage canopy where rain drips from the plant. A wide planting hole allows the easy spread of roots as the plant grows. Wide holes are extremely important where soil is heavy. Mulch should also be applied to the outer canopy area, not near the trunk. Mulch against the trunk can cause collar rot. • Having dug the planting hole, fill it with water and leave it for an hour or two. This practice serves two purposes. It allows you to check that the area is well drained, as few plants grow well in waterlogged soil. It also prevents water applied after planting being drawn away from the plant into surrounding drier soil. If some water remains in the bottom of the hole, plant the tree or shrub in a mound to improve drainage. If a lot of water remains in the hole, avoid planting in that spot until drainage is improved. • Don’t plant any deeper than the tree or shrub was in the pot. Bare-rooted plants will have a change of colour on the trunk that indicates the original planting depth. This will ensure that any graft is positioned above ground level. To avoid planting deeper, lay a garden stake across the top of the hole and position the plant so that the original depth is aligned with the bottom of the stake. If necessary, make a mound of soil in the bottom of the hole to that the original planting depth can be repeated. Spread the roots of bare-rooted plants over the mound before filling. • Fill in the hole, occasionally jiggling the trunk of bare-rooted plants to avoid air pockets around the roots, and mix some compost or worm castings through only the top 10 cm of soil. Organic matter in the bottom of the hole will cause the plant to sink as the organic matter breaks down. If you do not have compost to spare, place some well-rotted horse or cow manure on the soil surface, under the outer canopy, and cover it with 5–7 cm of organic mulch. The addition of organic matter when planting perennials is very important, as many foreign plant families (exotics), in particular, rely on a beneficial soil fungi called mycorrhiza to supply their roots with nutrients and water, and mycorrhiza live in organic matter. Without organic matter in soil, plants can struggle to absorb what they need for healthy growth, and will be more prone to pests and disease. Australian natives will benefit from the application of some leaf mould around them. • Gently firm soil around the plant, but do not trample the soil as roots can be damaged. Water gently, to settle soil, before applying mulch. Do not apply any extra fertiliser at planting time, but an application of seaweed extract tea can help reduce transplant shock.